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Black British Literature: Fiction from Windrush to Brexit


Admission requirements



In 2019 Bernadine Evaristo became the first black woman to win the Booker prize. Incidentally (and not coincidentally), 2019 was also the first year when the award was divided between two candidates; her co-winner that year was Margaret Atwood. In addition to the accolade being shared, the prize money was split as well. This bittersweet racial compromise is, unfortunately, very familiar across the Black diaspora. However, much of the dominant racial discourse that helps us name and address these racist dynamics comes from the United States of America. In this course, we will centralize the Black British experience through literature, history, and music.

The writers' works emerge from 1954 onwards, but the periods that these works depict are significantly broader. The seven weeks are divided over roughly three periods: Transatlantic Slavery, Windrush Generation, and the 21st-century/present moment, notable for both Brexit and the Grenfell Tower fire. While these are not the only times of significant Black British presence or output or history, these three epochs will help shape our course narrative. To get a fuller picture of the history and the circumstances of the work, there will be supplementary reading from thinkers and scholars including Akala, David Olusoga, and Afua Hirsch.

Course Objectives

At the end of the course, the student will be able to:

  • Identify the links between Britain’s colonial past and its current cultural currents

  • Analyze the broader scope of British history through the lens of the Black British Literature

  • Speak to the nuances between the more dominantly portrayed African American experience and the Black British experience

  • Critically review the distinct yet interconnected roles of power, class, and race in these narratives

  • Demonstrate fluency in typically difficult taboo discourses, i.e., racism, the intersection of sexuality and slavery


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2020-2021 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The two-hour twice weekly session will be run with multiple teaching methods and resources. The first session of the week will be a lecture, the second session will be a seminar discussion. The centerpiece of course will be the novels. However, we will also explore essays, songs, music videos, films, and clips from television series. Attendance for every session is mandatory. Deadlines in this course are not negotiable. Students who miss more than two sessions without extenuating circumstances will automatically fail the course. Electronic devices such as mobile phones and laptops are not permitted in the class, unless a student needs them for the purposes of accessibility.

Assessment Method


Reading list

  • Cambridge by Caryl Philips (1991)

  • Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (2019)

  • Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon (1956)

  • Small Island by Andrea Levy (2006)

  • Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo (2019)

  • Hold by Michael Donkor (2018)

  • Lote by Shola von Reinhold (2020)


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Lenore Todd,